Maddie Rice, who is both writer and actress for this solo show, takes on the role of teacher, at first stereotypical – complete with cardigan, embarrassing comments and good intentions – and then slowly her real story unravels.
Initially Pickle Jar is a comic tale of a young teacher trying her best to be liked by her pupils while at home she deals with her teacher housemate who goes “out out on a school night!”, tinder and an ex-boyfriend who leaves her with a gift she would rather not have. But beneath the every day exterior is a young woman in immense pain and dealing with a secret which when revealed to the audience comes us a shocking sucker punch.
It is well-written theatre which is unpredictable and the inclusion of a number of characters each with wildly different accents allows Rice to show off her gift for voices. The audience really get to know the character, laughing along with her seemingly pretty average life with its very average problems and so when her secrets are revealed are already emotionally invested in the piece and the character.
This emotional investment is often mirrored in real-life by teachers up-and-down the country who always feel they could have done more, indeed are always told in the media that they could have done more, but somewhere the job of teacher has to stop, and the role of others step in. Nonetheless when tragedy happens there is often a guilt that Rice weaves expertly into her storyline, clearly having done her research on the work of teachers in schools today.
The ‘Pickle Jar’ itself remains an unknown quantity until the final scenes when it is revealed to be a rather complex metaphor for what Rice’s teacher needs to do to get her life back, to start living again, to get rid of any guilt she feels about the tragic events in the play.
It will leave you with questions about consent, about who is responsible and about suicide, but don’t let the serious nature of the play put you off. There are still laughs a plenty and this is a superb example of what a solo theatre show should be.